Mercedes Schneider: “President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so.”

by , under Local Activism, Professional Issues

The following article was written by blogger Mercedes Scheider and posted on her blog deutsch29.  If the Democratic Party were truly interested in understanding why they suffered such a disappointing election season, they should look no further than their education policies.  Their nonstop movement to privatize our public school system, and other parts of our public commons, has left public school supporters with no party to support.

By Mercedes Schneider…

 Obama’s USDOE: Appointed to Privatize. Period.

President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better.

All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher.

In this post, I examine the backgrounds and priorities of eight key USDOE appointees.  (Here is the complete USDOE list of senior officials, and here is the complete USDOE list of appointments.)

I just wanted a closer look. It’s what I do.

Of course, there is Obama appointee Arne Duncan, US secretary of education, who had his big education reformer break in 2001 when then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Paul Vallas had a falling out with then-Mayor Richard Daley. Duncan had been playing professional basketball in Australia until 1991 then decided to return home to Chicago. A childhood friend, John W. Rogers, Jr., gave Duncan the job of “director” of the Ariel Education Initiative (AEI) and education based upon an “investment curriculum” modeled after the stock market. What Duncan actually did in his AEI “director” role is a mystery. However, in 2001, CPS being under mayoral control, Mayor Daley appointed Duncan as CPS CEO, a role in which Duncan served until 2008. (Documented in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes.)

To read Duncan’s USDOE bio, one would think that Duncan’s focus on standardized test scores and on closing traditional public schools and opening charters created a Utopian, market-driven CPS. However, if such were true, there would have been no reason for another Obama pal and former Obama admin chief of staff, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to slaughter CPS in the name of “reform.”

It seems that what Duncan had to most recommend him to Obama is Duncan’s willingness to do what the President requires.

Emma Vadhera, Duncan’s chief of staff, was formerly in charter management for Uncommon Schools. Prior to that, she was in USDOE as deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development under Common Core State Standards (CCSS) clueless promoter, Carmel Martin, former assistant secretary at the U.S Department of Education in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development who “debated” in favor of CCSS in New York in September 2014 but did not even know CCSS was copyrighted.

Massie Ritsch, acting assistant secretary for communications and outreach, but who is leaving USDOE to help the glorified teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA) with (as Ritsch tweeted) the “vital work” of (in a Ritsch email) “communications, marketing, research and strategic partnerships.” TFA is trying to get complete control over its public image, which is suffering from exposure of its illusive success. Ritsch was previously USDOE’s deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach, a position in which he directed “outreach to stakeholders, including education trade associations and the business community.” That’s what America needs: More business “stakeholder” involvement driving the American classroom.

Ritsch is to be replaced by USDOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications Development Jonathan Schorr, whose background includes being a NewSchools Venture Fund “partner” in San Francisco and “director of new initiatives” for KIPP charter schools (KIPP was founded by TFA alums.)

Obama appointee Jim Shelton, deputy secretary of education, has previous connections to the Gates Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund (whose current CEO, Stacey Childress, was also with the Gates Foundation), and McKinsey and Company. (Lots of ed reform folks originate with McKinsey and Company, including CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman, numerous individuals at the online education site, Khan Academy, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Read here for more info on McKinsey’s influence on public education.)

Tyra Mariani, chief of staff, office of the deputy secretary, is one of Eli Broad’s “academy trained” education reform-promoting “graduates.” She ended up…………

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